15 February 2013 – Letter: In response to Mr Chris Johnson’s comments on the Better Planning Network, I wish to clarify the following:

1. The nature of our affiliated groups

As at today, the Better Planning Network has 260 affiliated community groups across NSW, and this number continues to grow daily. A list of our affiliated groups is available at betterplanningnetwork.good.do, and includes precinct committees; progress, ratepayers and residents associations; residents action groups, historical societies; heritage groups; and environmental groups.

Like the Urban Taskforce, the Better Planning Network has access to the expertise of a diversity of professionals, many with decades of experience in the fields of architecture, planning and planning law.

Mr Johnson’s claim that the Better Planning Network is “mainly landscape groups, environment centres, bushland societies, conservation societies, the friends of the koala, heritage groups and the Nature Conservation Council”  focused on “the ecological” is misinformed.

2. Our stand on growth and development

The Better Planning Network is not “anti-growth or anti-development”.  We believe that growth can be positive and that there are many ways of achieving good development. The Better Planning Network is striving to attain a fair and responsible planning system which regulates growth and development that:

  • Enhances the liveability of communities through appropriate development and infrastructure (“communities” being the people who live in the area in which the growth and development is occurring)
  • Maintains or enhances our natural environment; and
  • Preserves our cultural heritage.

The Better Planning Network also wants to see a planning system that minimises the risk of corruption.

We do not believe that the planning reforms outlined in the Green Paper will encourage appropriate development that minimises corruption and enhances the wellbeing of our communities.

In relation to the risk of corruption, the Independent Commission Against Corruption has itself formally raised a number of serious concerns, notably regarding Enterprise Zones and merit assessment.

3. The way forward

The Better Planning Network recognises that our current planning system is in need of reform.  However, we will not support a planning system that promotes economic growth to the detriment of community wellbeing, our environment and heritage.

It is also clear to us that a planning system which does not have the support of communities across NSW is bound to fail sooner or later. This view is supported by the report on the independent Planning System Review by Tim Moore and Ron Dwyer, which identifies community acceptance as one of two elements required for a reformed planning system to work well.

On this basis, it is in the interests of all concerned, including the Urban Taskforce and its membership, to have a planning system which is acceptable not only to developers but to communities also.

Such a planning system would need to be perceived as fair by all parties.  This is not the case with many of the planning reforms outlined in the Green Paper.

We welcome dialogue with anyone interested in achieving a fair planning system for NSW.

Corinne Fisher is founder and convenor of the Better Planning Network

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  1. Like most people involved with the Better Planning Network I am not against development provided that it does not adversely impact on the natural environment and that infill developments do not compromise the rights of citizens to retain the amenity and value of their properties and general community. With the Green Paper none of these rights could be expected. In fact the direction indicated in the Green Paper was that developers could do what they pleased and ,to assure that this was not able to be challenged, the right of access to the Land and Environment Court was specifically denied to objectors to inappropriate or non-compliant developments. This was despite the recommendations of the Planning Review Commissioners that objectors, under specific conditions, would be able to access the Court. The Green Paper resulted from a two-day “love-in” between the Planning Minister and the Development Lobby. It is obvious the impact on the people received little or no consideration at that meeting as the development Lobby gave this paper 100% approval. Since then over 80% of professionals associated with planning perceive that the direction as indicated in the Green Paper advantages only developers. Yet the Government still expects the community to believe that the reform of planning is to the benefit of the general community. If they were fair dinkum in providing a fair and just planning system there would not be the community concern which has been generated by the Green Paper.
    Don Ollerenshaw

  2. Corinne,
    The Urban taskforce is keen to be involved in a dialogue with the Better Planning Network.

    We also believe that we need a fair planning system for all in the state.This must be based on growth that inevitably leads to new development somewhere.

    I can understand that many communities will prefer this development to be somewher else but future generations will not all want to be living on the city fringe. All of our members want to work with existing communities as we work out how best to handle growth and of course the occupants of the new development become members of the community.

    Keen to continue a discussion with the BPN on these issues so that our big undersupply of housing in Sydney can be reversed for the benefit of younger members of the community.